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The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife

How much do you know about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh?  In this work of historical fiction, Melanie Benjamin seeks to unfold the drama of this famous woman’s life and give the reader a glimpse of a woman who showed amazing courage and resilience during her turbulent life.

While I enjoyed the book, it might disappoint historical fiction purists.  Benjamin was going for the emotional effect here, and not historical accuracy.  This probably gives it more broad appeal, but for me lowered it to the ranks of a “beach read.”

*Spoiler Alert*
Don’t read any further if you don’t know much about the Lindbergh family.  If you already know the story, read on!

When I began reading, I already knew about Lindbergh, his famous flight to Paris, and his antisemitic, pro-Nazi sympathies during World War II.  Of course, I also knew about the famous kidnapping/murder case of his first-born son.  What I didn’t know, was that Lindbergh was a philanderer who fathered seven illegitimate children.  But this novel, while revealing the real Charles Lindbergh, also serves to lift up his wife Anne.  She didn’t fit the mold of the typical 1930’s newlywed.  She was an aviatrix herself, a college graduate, an accomplished author, and she managed to keep up a household for 5 living children and a husband who rarely graced her doorstep.  All this she did in the midst of terrible losses and a complete lack of privacy.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh was very impressive lady indeed.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013
402 pages

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The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman In White

Once hailed as “great trash” by literary critic Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Woman in White became a favorite with readers not just in 1860, when it was published, but for more than one hundred years to follow.

The novel opens with a narration by the character Walter Hartright.  He is a drawing teacher, hired to instruct Miss Laura Fairlie and her friend, Marian Halcombe.  As Hartright’s tale unfolds, we learn that Miss Fairlie is to be married to Sir Percival Glyde, but receives a ominous letter warning her not to go ahead with the marriage.

I wasn’t aware that this novel was one of the earliest mysteries published.  It gives one a great appreciation for the methods Collins uses to create suspense.  He does this by dividing the novel, not just into chapters, but through the use of different narrators.  Each storyteller gives the reader a different perspective on the characters and the events.

Who was the woman in white?  Why does Anne Catherick warn Laura Fairlie against marrying Sir Percival Glyde? Is Marian Halcombe able to help her dear friend?

All of these questions and more are answered in the pages of The Woman in White.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1860
672 pages

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Tai-Pan by James Clavell

Tai Pan

Tai-Pan is the second novel in James Clavell’s Asian Saga series, but it’s definitely not a sequel to Shogun.  Rest assured, however, that Tai-Pan is every bit a page-turner as the former novel, and I have to admit, I liked Tai-Pan even better.

The novel takes place in the early nineteenth century, when Hong Kong has just become part of the British Empire.  English traders, including Dirk Struan (the Tai-Pan of Noble House) gamble with the future of Chinese/English trade in the midst of political upheaval in their British homeland and in China itself.

Clavell truly outdid himself with the plot development of Tai-PanI especially enjoyed the intrigue and romantic similarities to Romeo and Juliet with warring houses and ill-fated love.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1983
732 pages

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Life Studies by Susan Vreeland

Life Studies

I had enjoyed Girl In Hyacinth Blue, Vreeland’s work of historical fiction based on the painter, Vermeer, so I was eager to read more.  Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Life Studies at all.  It’s a series of short stories featuring a glimpse into the lives of several painters, mostly French impressionists.  The stories, however, were mostly about their wives and lovers, and not very interesting at all.  I found myself skimming towards the latter part of the book, because I just wanted to move on to another, better novel.

1 star (out of 5)
Published in 2005
352 pages

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Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem

Ayn Rand’s Anthem is the story of a young man, Equality-2521, who lives in a totalitarian, collectivist society. Reading and writing are banned, being alone is banned, thinking is banned. The government controls the lives of it’s subjects by keeping them ignorant. But Equality has questions, and those questions lead him to seek answers. The truth that Equality finds leads to great changes within himself.

Rand uses her background in post-revolution Russia to create a fictionalized story of a dystopian society. Her aim is to promote the idea that in order to be fully human, we must think and act for ourselves. The experiment of socialism only leads to darkness and despair.

Wonderful piece of literature.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1918
105 pages

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Girl In Motion by Miriam Wenger-Landis

Girl In Motion

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to attend the top ballet school in the country?  In Girl in Motion, Miriam Wenger-Landis creates a novel around that very premise.  15 year old Anna is accepted to the NYC dance academy (which is loosely based on the School of American Ballet), and spends the next two years training to become a professional ballet dancer.

I would consider this book a young adult novel.  It is also a bit flat, lacking the prose and use of rhetorical devices you’d find from more seasoned authors.  If you are interested life at dance school, however, it will not disappoint.  Wenger-Landis is very accurate on that score.  She focuses on all the challenges -emotional and physical – that young dancers face.  Unfortunately, with all the negative information, she makes you wonder why anyone would bother pursuing the path of a dancer at all.  In truth, dancers are extremely passionate about their art form.  They need it, just as you and I need air.  The author should have fleshed out that theme, in order to more accurately depict the protagonist, Anna.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2010
252 pages

 

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